8 Reasons to Choose Chicago as Your Next Travel Destination
Itching to tap into your inner adventurer and have an unforgettable time? Well, look no further than Chicago! From the iconic metallic "bean" in Millennium Park to the wondrous architecture, renowned museums, and glistening lakefront, this city is practically overflowing with heart-pumping thrills and adventures. And the best part? You don't have to fork over your entire wallet to partake in the fun, as the Windy City will blow you away with its affordability. Ahead are eight reasons to choose Chicago as your next travel destination!
1. You can rest your head at night for less than $50.
If you're visiting the Windy City on an extra tight budget and fear you won't find any decent accommodations nestled within the city limits, think again! After just a few minutes of searching on Airbnb, I uncovered quite a few places to stay for less than $50 per night, all in excellent locations.
For instance, check out this cozy one-bedroom apartment situated in Logan Square. At just $45 per night, you can be a stone's throw away from dozens of coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. And if you enjoy art, then you will fall instantly in love as this space is located next to some of the city's most vibrant public street art.
2. Finding delicious food (without a hefty price-tag) is incredibly easy.
With its funky flavors, friendly service, and affordable prices, it's no wonder why Stan's Donuts is one of the most beloved gourmet doughnut shops in all of Chicago. If you're in the mood for a sweet treat, I highly recommend stopping at one of the various locations peppered throughout the city.
Although you'll be able to easily spot the iconic pink sign, chances are your nose will be the one leading the way!
Now, while you can't get a deep-dish pizza doughnut, you can pick from a slew of other fun flavors that are sure to knock your socks off. Pistachio-glazed, peanut-butter-banana, chocolate-orange, or the classic cinnamon-sugar — no matter what you choose, it's guaranteed to deliver the sugar fix you're craving!
For a delicious farm-to-table meal, check out Lula Cafe. With eclectic vibes and creative dishes, this popular eatery is a gold mine when it comes to fresh food. They even offer an amazing vegetarian menu!
Lula Cafe serves everything from breakfast to dinner, but I highly recommend heading this way for brunch. When I last went, I ordered the pistachio-crusted french toast topped with raspberries, and I can still taste that mouth-watering deliciousness!
Yes, if you're seeking somewhere you can relax and unwind as you chow down on scrumptious food, go here. Despite the long lines that can slither around outside, the service is always friendly and you never feel rushed.
In the mood for a true taste of Chicago? Head on over to one of the city's farmers markets. With over a hundred vendors selling everything from fruits and veggies to fresh-cut flowers, you can fill up your tote bag and eat like a "localvore" year round. And who knows, you could even rub elbows with the city's top chefs!
3. There are tons of free activities to enjoy.
When it comes to Chicago, there is no need to return home broke after visiting, as sightseeing on a budget is extremely easy to do.
If you're looking to soak in as much history as possible while taking in the beauty of iconic landmarks and buildings, be sure to check out Chicago Greeter. This program sets you up with an insightful, friendly local to provide you with an insider's orientation to the city.
With over 200 enthusiastic volunteers eager to share their knowledge and passion with you, your greeter will be customized based on your interests and will guide you on a two-to-four-hour tour of the city.
The best part? This tour is completely free. Yes, free! All you need to do to jump on this amazing deal is register online at least 10 business days in advance.
In addition to joining a free customized tour, I also recommend taking some time to simply walk around downtown. Here, you'll have the chance to feast your eyes on the incredible skyline while also gazing upon the sparkling waterfront.
And if leisurely strolls are your cup of tea and you're seeking to reconnect with nature, don't miss these free walking maps created by the Chicago Botanic Garden and North Shore University Health System. It is with these seasonal maps that you can find special paths in the Garden allowing you to engage with nature and embrace its unique beauty.
Of course, what would be a visit to Chicago without making a pit stop at the infamous Cloud Gate, aka the metallic "bean?" Located in Millennium Park, this skyline-reflective sculpture weighs in at over 110 tons and is 66 feet long and 33 feet high. It is an absolute must see, and although it is open to the public all day, it serves as the perfect photo op during sunset! Did I mention there is no admission fee?
4. You can relish the city's culture by visiting museums for free.
With a world-class museum scene right at your fingertips, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't check out at least one of these cultural institutions. Believe it or not, there are museums with free admissions every single day.
Thanks to free museums days, you can take in all the art, history, and culture you want without the steep prices. All it takes is a little planning ahead. Be sure to bookmark this guide for free Chicago museums and attractions year round. And if you're a student, remember to bring your student ID for even more savings.
If you're low on time but are looking to explore at least one of place, I recommend stopping by the Shedd Aquarium. Not only will you be able to meet over 32,000 animals from aquatic habitats around the world, but you can also sit in on aquatic presentations and get face to face with dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, and penguins.
Looking for the days with free admission? Check them out here.
Yes, there is no doubt the Shedd Aquarium is a must-see attraction. But with over 2 million guests visiting each year, there might be a chance you'll have to wait in line to enter, especially on the free days.
But don't let the wait deter your visit. The line moves fairly quickly, plus the museum offers a spectacular view of downtown!
5. There are numerous budget-friendly ways to discover the city's marvelous architecture.
With its innovative skyscrapers, museums, theaters, parks, and sculptures, Chicago has long served as the laboratory for architectural experimentation. And fortunately, there are numerous ways for you to marvel in these structures' beauty and discover the stories behind them, no matter how tight your budget is.
For instance, Free Tours by Foot offers several pay-what-you-wish architecture tours. In addition, the Chicago Architecture Foundation has over 85 tours to choose from, all ranging in prices. Whatever kind of architecture it is you're seeking to explore — downtown, neighborhoods, houses, hotels, you name it — there's a tour for you, guaranteed!
You can also paddle your way around the architecture by renting a kayak! Kayak Chicago offers affordably priced tours along the Chicago River, allowing you to get on the water and experience the buildings from a different perspective.
6. You can uncover retro finds and vintage treasures at great deals.
Looking to take home a little piece of the Windy City? Track down the mobile vintage store known as The Bus Shop! This renovated blue bus is beloved by locals and houses eccentric vintage clothing and accessories, all at reasonable prices.
7. There's even free comedy!
For free belly-laughs, make your way over to the famous stage of The Second City, which houses free improv after the last show of every night (except on Fridays). With an impressive list of alumni including Tina Fey, Bill Murray, and Chris Farley, this comedy theater is definitely worth the visit!
And for even more freebies, discounts, and deals, check out Chicago on the Cheap. You definitely won't break the bank with this local resource by your side!
8. The lit-up skyline will forever capture your heart.
Want the ultimate adrenaline rush? Soar up to the 103rd floor of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and step out onto the glass balcony.
At 1,353 feet in the air, the Skydeck's glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet and offer jaw-dropping views spanning up to four states. At $23 per adult ticket, this experience isn't exactly free — although children under the age of 3 are free! — but it will provide you with an up-close view of the city's dramatic skyline. And if your ledge adventure is anything like mine was, the scene of those twinkling lights will forever be sketched in your heart!